Review: The Brood /Cert: 18 / Director: David Cronenberg / Screenplay: David Cronenberg / Starring: Oliver Reed, Art Hindle, Samantha Eggar / Release Date: July 8th
Body horror obsessive Cronenberg’s third feature, 1979’s The Brood, marks a significant leap in quality from his earlier efforts Shivers and Rabid. Although still produced on a relatively tiny budget, the film at least allows the director/writer to craft a proper, if outlandish, story to support his often stomach-troubling images of the human body being corrupted and violated to create some twisted, bloody parody of the human condition. The Brood is a slow burn, horribly over-talky for its first hour, and lumbered with a crashingly melodramatic score before getting to the point and coasting towards a typically nasty blood-drenched finale.
Oliver Reed (he was fond of a tipple, you know) is the sinister Hal Raglan, a psychotherapist who runs the Somafree Institute where his ‘psychoplasmics’ therapy encourages patients to unleash their pent-up rage via physical manifestations. Frank Carveth (Hindle) is understandably a bit worried about his estranged wife Nola’s ongoing treatment, especially when her rages lead to the brutal deaths of those at whom it’s directed courtesy of ferocious deformed ‘children’ who aren’t quite human. Desperate to rescue their daughter Candice who has been abducted by two of the ‘children’ Frank finally confronts his wife at Somafree and discovers the grotesque truth; Nola (Eggar) has been parthogenetically creating a ‘brood’ of feral killer children who respond and react to her rages.
Cronenberg’s movies are often acquired tastes and The Brood remains a difficult and occasionally even harrowing film; the slaughter of a kindergarten teacher in front of a full classroom of young children is difficult to watch because the kids look genuinely shocked and distressed. Then there’s the final reveal of Nola, twisted and deformed, ‘giving birth’ to a new ‘creature’ from the bulbous growth attached to her body and ravenously licking the birth-blood from her newborn. Not for the fainthearted. Visually the film has the bland, no-nonsense palette of most films of its era and while it’s been nicely scrubbed-up for Blu-ray (and supported by the sort of in-depth bonus material rare in modern blockbusters packed with bland Electronic Press Kit stuff) it still appears cold, remote and, by virtue of its subject matter, hard to engage with and difficult to admit to enjoying without feeling some sense of shame and perhaps even guilt.
Extras: Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds (the young Candice) are reunited / Producing the Brood looks at the genesis of the film / The Look of Rage interviews the film’s cinematographer / Cronenberg discusses his early work